The people of Mindanao have been living in terror and poverty for two months now since Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the island.. Nobody believes anymore that the imposition aims to foil the terrorism threat of the Maute group. This has long been exposed as one of schemes to establish an unrestrained and perpetual fascist dictatorship across the country.
The imposition of martial law on Mayo 23, 2017 is among Duterte’s gravest abuse of power. His bombing of Marawi City for five months, resulting in the death of hundreds of individuals and the destruction of P18-billion worth of properties, can be considered as a crime against humanity. This case, along with extrajudicial killings commited under his drug war, can be filed at international courts.
The plight of the Maranaos
Up to the present, 100,000 Marawi residents who were displaced when the AFP attacked the city are still without decent housing. A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross issued last May indicate that most evacuees are still in evacuation centers, temporary settlements or in houses of relatives in Mindanao, Visayas and even Luzon. Around 50,000 are not allowed to return nor temprorarily visit the center of the city called Ground Zero which was hardest hit by AFP bombings.
Many evacuees are suffering from hunger, diseases and depression. Since last year, food aid support from humanitarian institutions has been decreasing. Financial aid is very minimal. It was reported on May that the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) only shelled out P10,000 from the P36.92-million donation fund it was able to solicit for the evacuees. The OCD is deliberately make it difficult for evacuees to apply for aid by requiring them to present documents that they lost along with their other properties and homes.
In addition, the request of Marawi residents to find their relatives were in vain. Up to the present, many are still waiting for DNA results that will identify cadavers buried in mass graves. Academics estimate that around 2,000-2,500 were killed when Marawi was besieged, a number which is far from the regime’s 1,200 estimate.
Marawi residents are enraged that they were deliberately disregarded in the rehabilitation plan and that it was turned over to foreign companies and their comprador counterparts. They are fed up with the very slow rehabilitation process amid the haste of constructing a military camp at the city center. They were further enraged with Duterte’s accusation that the city is a “drug den” and his statement that wealthy Maranaos should shoulder the cost themselves to rebuild the city.
Hundred thousand abuses
Karapatan documented 800,000 victims of human rights violations in Mindanao since the declaration of martial law. Among the victims are 93 murdered activists, 136 victims of attempted killing, 1,400 of illegal arrests and detention, 29,000 of threat, harassment and intimidation, and 423,500 of forcible evacuation from communities. Karapatan also recorded 4,428 incidents of military occupation and use of civilian infrastructures.
Brutal crimes were perpetrated during the second year of martial law. This includes the massacre of seven youths in Patikul by AFP troopers and two bombing incidents in Catholic churches in Jolo, both in Sulu. The AFP is using the “war on terrorism” as pretext to intensify militarization of Moro communities. This resulted in more Moro evacuees. In the first quarter of this year alone, relentless military evacuation resulted in the evacuation of 16,300 residents.
Simultaneous with attacks on Moro communities were relentless attacks against Lumad and peasant communities. Lumad schools, which were particularly targeted by the AFP, sustained a number of attacks. In the past two years, the fascist regime closed down 79 schools with around 2,782 teachers and students Three students were killed by soldiers and paramilitary elements. Remaining schools are in constant danger and survive only with the help of communities and support from various sectors.